SENATE president Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso has lamented the “far slower pace” of Lesotho’s political, economic and social development compared to its “sister” countries that were also colonised by Britain.
Lesotho and Botswana recently celebrated 50 years of independence, but according to Prince Seeiso the former is far behind in terms of development.
The principal chief of Matsieng, popularly known as Tšoana-Mantata, has since called on “Basotho traditional leaders” to intervene and assist government to change the situation, saying “the hope of our people rests upon us”.
Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso made his remarks during the Senate opening session this week, following a lengthy winter break. The senate comprises 24 designated principal chiefs and 10 politicians.
“I invite us all to make an objective and realistic assessment of our country and reflect on what independence has meant for us and what the future holds for our children and grand-children,” he said.
“It is natural that in the course of development, differences of opinion and sometimes quarrels will ensue. It is human to see things differently from your brother, sister and neighbour but what matters most is how we manage those differences and quarrels to ensure that we are wiser and better equipped moving forward.”
Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso also noted that while there were some notable achievements, “we also have to be true to ourselves and recognise that in comparative terms, our country has politically, economically and socially developed at a far slower pace than her sister protectorates and we must therefore challenge ourselves as to why”.
“This is where the senate comes in. The hope of our people rests upon us. When all institutions seem to be in a state of confusion or in inexplicable tremors – the nation’s hopes rest with the senate and upon the spirit and philosophy of our chieftaincy.”
He said history had recorded the immense contributions of traditional leaders including the fact that they were in the forefront of the fight for independence.
The prince, who is also King Letsie III’s brother, said before that traditional leaders had helped hold the country together when other territories were destroyed by colonialism. Furthermore, he said, traditional leaders helped mobilise resources for the war effort against Hitler in World War II.
Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso also noted the gallantry with which the chiefs “categorically refused to be bullied into endorsing incorporation into the Union of South Africa in 1910”.
“. . . our forefathers took up their responsibility in opposing the repressive Apartheid regime and in safeguarding our culture and sacred customs.”
He said all this was ample testimony of the role the Senate could play in the next half-century of independence. Lesotho turned 50 on 4 October, after having attained independence from Britain in 1966.
This, he said, was more important today when conflict emanating from differences of opinion had developed into “pervasive suspicions of one another and a real threat to the peace and stability of our people”.
“And I can promise you that everyone will be watching what role and what choices the senate will make and take to influence the circumstances so that justice, peace and tolerance are safeguarded,” said Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso.
“Our efforts should focus on three areas that shape our lives, equal opportunity, democracy and peace.”
He added that the Senate had the task of scrutinising five outstanding bills from the last session, namely Lesotho Passports and Travel Documents (Amendment) Bill; Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism Bill; Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Bill; Land Survey (Amendment) Bill; and the Science and Technology Bill, all of which were 2016 bills.